Ragaman (rä' gä-man) [< Skt raga song + OE mann person] n. 1. A person who pursues music through compulsive immersion. 2. A person having a cathartic moment with music, particularly when using headphones. 3. A new, original musical group from the Quad Cities known for blending. 4. obs. An anagram of the word anagram.
The core trio is Lars Rehnberg (guitar, sitar, vocals), Gordon Pickering (bass, vocals) and Leif Rehnberg (drums, vocals).
Lars trained as a classical guitarist, jazz bassist, poet, and choir boy. Gordon came up on the cello but then fell madly in love with the electric bass and synthesizers. He will be releasing a solo electronic EP later in 2012. Leif is notoriously fun and tends to pound on anything near him, but on this album he plays mostly trap set and world percussion.
From 2007 to 2010, the trio played live shows incessantly while writing and recording their first album at River Drive Records in Rock Island, IL. The live shows and endless rehearsal improved the band's cohesion so much by 2010 that they unanimously threw out the whole first batch of recordings and re-recorded it live. The songs you hear on “And Other Anagrams” are not edits, they are takes.
In 2011, they started jamming and recording with experimental cellist Sam Rae, who you'll hear on “Ballad of the Wheel” and “Soluna.” Her solo work and other collaborative work can be found on Facebook. She is based in Denver, CO, and also teaches rock climbing.
Released March 24, 2012, "And Other Anagrams" is a slideshow. There is a song for each of the musical genres Ragaman has explored to date.
Aside from the core guitar-bass-drums trio, the album features sitar, charango, acoustic and electric cello, flute, tin whistle, conch shell, vocoder, an orchestra of percussion, and the sounds of a tape deck being destroyed with a hammer. Did I mention these guys like variety? The album also includes Crux, a solo classical guitar composition that won the grand prize at Augustana College's competitive Composition Contest.
Physical copies of the album include the already-infamous cover art, a creative piece of papercraft known as a Tetraflexagon. They were made by hand at River Drive Records, and are interesting because they have four sides, even though they appear to have only two.
The members of Ragaman wrote all the lyrics and music on the album with two notable exceptions –
1 “The Ballad of the Wheel” is a poem by Charles Simic first published in his 1986 book “Unending Blues.”
Charles Simic is worth knowing about. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 and served as the US Poet Laureate from 2007–2008. He was born in Belgrade in 1938 and emigrated to the United States in 1954. Today, he is Professor Emeritus of creative writing and American literature at the University of New Hampshire.
2 The chant at the end of "Palace of Pele" comes from the Kumulipo, the ancient and beautiful Hawaiian Creation Chant.
The original is a very lengthy oral history, with 16 chapters and a total of 2012 lines. The portion excerpted on the album translates as:
(112) Darkness slips into light
Earth and water are the food of the plant
The god enters, man can not enter
Multiplying in the passing time
The long night slips along
Fruitful, very fruitful
Spreading here, spreading there
Spreading this way, spreading that way
Propping up earth, holding up the sky
The time passes, this night of Kumulipo
Still it is night.
Music - Ragaman
Lyrics - Lars Rehnberg
Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Ragaman.
Additional engineering on "The Ballad of the Wheel" by Jay Wendt, a freelance engineer based in Des Moines, IA.
Flute on "I Do" performed by Carly Stoakes, a Quad-Cities based musician and friend of the band.
Cello on "Soluna" and "The Ballad of The Wheel" by Sam Rae.
Instead of semi-meaningless categories, here's a list of Ragaman's current radio stations on Pandora. All of these artists are worth looking up, though for wildly different reasons:
The Books, The Flaming Lips, Tabla Beat Science, Benga, Emily Hurd, Flogging Molly, Dervish, Maceo Parker, Birds & Batteries, Pinback, Jane's Addiction, Feist, Aphex Twin, Bobby McFerrin, Boards of Canada, Mos Def, Beck, Gabriel Fauré, Jesca Hoop, Ravi Shankar, Apparat, Andrew Bird, Jojo Mayer & Nerve, Iron & Wine, Manu Chao, Snowblink, Radiohead, KMFDM, The Civil Wars, Toubab Krewe, MMW, Zap Mama.
Ragaman is not exactly like any of these bands. In fact they could really use a genre – you can find them on Facebook if you have thoughts. Or if you just want to say HOLA!
for your kind attention. We hope to meet you at a live show soon.